NASHVILLE — Celebrating a home-opening win with more than seven fans in attendance would have been preferable for the Tennessee Titans (2-0) on Sunday. Mike Vrabel’s team settled anyway for winning their first two games of a season for only the third time since 1999 with a 33-30 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1).
Of course, it could not come without end-of-game angst, a Stephen Gostkowski game-winning kick and continued heroics by quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
“I would say the guys went up and made plays and helped Ryan (Tannehill) out like it is all the time,” Vrabel said after the game. “Humph (Adam Humphries) or Corey (Davis), Jonnu (Smith). Those guys went up and caught the football, attacked the football, and that was really good to see. It’s not all one guy. We understand that. So that was where we were today.”
It takes the collective over an individual effort for a football team to accomplish the ultimate goal, of course.
— AtoZSports Nashville (@AtoZSports) September 20, 2020
Things are different, though, for the Titans under Tannehill.
Every NFL team lusts after a quarterback whose poise and ability consistently puts his team in a position to win and who carries the day when necessary. Tennessee is 11-4 (including postseason) since Vrabel and offensive coordinator Arthur Smith gave him the reins in Week 7 of 2019. The former Miami Dolphin set a franchise record Sunday per Titans’ PR, extending his career-best stretch to nine consecutive regular season games with 2+ touchdown passes.
Tannehill finished 18-of-24 for 239 passing yards, four passing touchdown and a rating of 145.7. Tennessee took all of 98 seconds and three plays at the start of the contest to march 77 yards down the field and take a 7-0 lead on one of two scoring passes to tight end Jonnu Smith. Tannehill, for the second week in a row, put Gostkowski in position to attempt and make the field goal that would give the Titans a late lead.
“He’s on fire,” said running back Derrick Henry. “He did a great job in the red zone. That’s just what he does. When he needs to deliver, that’s what he does.”
Ryan Tannehill in the red-zone vs Jacksonville:
🔹 44 yards
🔹 4 TDs pic.twitter.com/DvlyjRXAma
— PFF (@PFF) September 20, 2020
Tannehill does not just deliver as Tennessee’s starting quarterback, he’s saved the franchise from another signal-calling reboot.
The 2020 Titans are not without their flaws. Secondary injuries, Jadeveon Clowney’s slow acclimation and Vic Beasley’s continued on-field absence make for a defense that has yet to find their footing. Jags’ quarterback Gardner Minshew diced them up for 339 yards through the air and three touchdowns of his own. Defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons’ fourth quarter tip drill for linebacker Harold Landry to intercept and seal Tennessee’s 2-0 record cannot be discounted. None of it would have been possible without Tannehill’s efforts to keep them in that game.
Take the Titans last touchdown, for example.
Tannehill took the shotgun snap on 3rd and 9 from the Jacksonville 18-yard line with 2:04 remaining in the third quarter. With pressure bearing down and Jags’ defender Josh Allen flying shoulder-first into his chest, Tannehill slung as impressive a pass as you will see in Pro Football to a streaking Humphries in the back of the end zone. Jacksonville would later tie the score at 30 before the Gostkowski’s kick gave Tennessee the lead.
Tannehill’s teammates fed off his energy, though, and persevered in a way that previous iterations of this franchise have missed and fallen prey to.
— NFL (@NFL) September 20, 2020
“He threw that ball where he got hit in the chest, and he’s probably going to get mad that I said this, but he got up and he said ‘And One,’” guard Rodger Saffold said. “I mean, that’s what you want to hear out of your quarterback. You want to hear that competitive nature coming from him so we can constantly see him improve and succeed.”
The 2-0 Titans are, indeed, competitive. Tannehill’s fit in Nashville is what makes them a true contender.
Featured Image: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports.